From Skepticism to Scale: Lessons from Friendship Bench with Dr. Dixon Chibanda

Episode 48 |  41 minutes

Dr. Dixon Chibanda started Friendship Bench after losing a patient to suicide who could not afford to travel to the hospital in Zimbabwe where he worked. There had to be a way to make mental health care more accessible. Today, Friendship Bench has a team of grandmothers across Zimbabwe who are trained to deliver evidence-based high-impact therapy on park benches, making mental health support readily available. In this episode, Jonathan Jackson learns about the incredible journey of  the Friendship Bench intervention in conversation with its Founder and CEO, Dr. Dixon Chibanda. Get a behind the scenes look at how this incredible program and intervention has achieved resonance and scale by offering community-based psychological interventions to people in need. You’ll learn how Friendship Bench has trained grandmothers to deliver high-impact therapy, discover the tremendous healing power of storytelling and vulnerability, explore the role CommCare plays in enabling digital data collection and analysis, and dig into the three-part formula for creating a scaled intervention that applies beyond mental health. This episode is a great listen for anyone wanting to learn about the foundational role of digitization in enabling programs to scale and inform data-driven decision-making.

Topics included: 

  • How the Friendship Bench intervention started 
  • Leading randomized controlled trials (RCT) to provide evidence for the effectiveness of the Friendship Bench intervention
  • Scaling up the Friendship Bench to reach 100,000 people last year
  • Engaging government stakeholders and building referral pathways for long-term sustainability
  • Focusing on improving overall health outcomes, not just mental health
  • The power of effective storytelling and vulnerability
  • The role digitization plays in scaling and sustaining the program
  • Partnering with Dimagi and using CommCare to become fully digital
  • The importance of addressing mental health at the community level

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Disclaimer: The audio quality in certain parts of this episode has been compromised, but we trust you are still able to share in this rich conversation. We apologise for any inconvenience.

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